Alienating our policies

This week Gov. Jeb Bush threw his support behind a bill allowing illegal immigrants to get a driver’s license, a privilege the state has denied immigrants since 1999.

While Bush said his endorsement comes because the plan has enough safeguards in place to keep terrorists from getting licenses, Florida doesn’t exactly have a proven record when it comes to following procedures. Lawmakers should focus more on fixing the problem, protecting U.S. borders and helping those aliens who are here to properly become citizens instead of developing a system that keeps law breakers on the streets until a specialized agency — Immigration and Naturalization Services, in this case — catches up with them.

“Do you basically say that they’re lepers to society? That they don’t exist?” Bush asked, according to an Associated Press report. “A policy that ignores them is a policy of denial.”

Bush seems to have forgotten that the United States already has a policy set up to accept or deny these immigrants. It’s unfortunate that some of these immigrants fled to the United States to escape turbulent homelands. But laws shouldn’t be written to accommodate large groups of people when more folks are breaking the rules than complying.

A driver’s license is more than the key to the road. It’s likely to be one of the most used personal documents that contains a photograph. Vendors ask to see it when shoppers prefer credit to cash. Bars and clubs inspect it before patrons enter their establishments.

In his comments about the issue, the governor’s brother, President George W. Bush, said to the immigrants, the driver’s license is “the one document they need to be able to function.” Gov. Bush’s support of such a bill shows disrespect to those immigrants who went through the process of becoming legal citizens.

Instead of focusing on a way for illegal immigrants to keep slipping through the system, Gov. Bush should press lawmakers to spend time developing ways to get more illegal immigrants into the naturalization process.

What message does it send by bestowing a driver’s license on someone? Passing a road test and taking a simple eye exam doesn’t classify you as a safe driver. If law enforcement agencies and businesses consider something as small as a driver’s license in such high regard, why deface its value?

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger repealed a law that would have allowed about 2 million illegal-immigrant drivers there to apply for driver’s licenses, according to AP, which was set to take effect at the beginning of the year. Opponents of the bill in California cited national security as a major concern. There simply wasn’t enough substance to a background check.

They were probably right. Think about your own driver’s license and what it was like standing in line before you took the picture. The Department of Motor Vehicle clerk asked you how tall you were. Maybe you elevated your height by a few inches. It seems small, but I’ve never heard of a DMV taking out a measuring stick. They took you at your word.

Not unlike a similar situation that allowed Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists to gain “legal” driver’s licenses, which airline attendants and security looked before gladly showing them the way to their seats on soon-to-be-hijacked airplanes.

Gov. Bush likely supports the bill because of the so-called “safeguards.” Undocumented immigrants would have to go through quite a few rounds of bureaucracy to obtain a legal driver’s license. The law would require them to show some form of identification and consulates would need to provide criminal background checks.

It sounds to me like the government wants to create a backdoor policy that undermines the policies and procedures in place, which all law-abiding citizens are expected to follow.

At the end of the day, Bush, one fact remains. An illegal immigrant with a driver’s license is still an illegal immigrant.

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief.